I received a few samples of tea from Aura Teas today.
Among them was this Formosa Wenshan Baochong.
The dry leaf smells like a lightly oxidized "green oolong" It reminds me of Adagio's pouchong, but with less of the earthy smells. After thinking about it for a minute, I realized that both these teas are really Baozhong. Baozhong is a variation of oolong that is lightly oxidized, producing a green, sweet cup. Both Aura's and Adagio's originate from Taiwan. There are Chinese-grown baozhongs, but I believe these should probably be avoided, just like Chinese senchas.
For a long time, my favorite teas were these kinds of lighter oolongs. Probably because they are predominantly sweet, and very forgiving in their steep time. One day I got a stomach ache after drinking some. Then again the next day. I decided to let it rest for a while, and never really got back into the green oolongs. Today I'll try these two Baozhongs from Adagio and Aura.
The dry leaf of Aura's smells sweet, in the way that green oolongs do, and lightly earthy. In contrast, Adagio's has a bit of a deeper sweet in the smell, while also smelling much more earthy.
I brewed them both at about 1 layer of leaves on the bottom of my 125 mL gaiwan at 190° for 3 minutes, not according to any instructions. By the way, with large leaf teas like oolong, it can turn out that you can only fit 1 leaf on a teaspoon, so they often require either weighing, or just a good visualization.
Aura's smells honey-suckle sweet. Lightly floral. The taste is very nice. Having good balance of floral sweetness while being very smooth. I was surprised by the 2nd infusion here. As always, the first infusion wakes up the leaves after having been dried. The second infusion had a nuance of a smoky smell, similar to gunpowder. The taste turned out quite pleasant, with a more rounded flavor, losing any sharper floral notes to the deep sweetness. The taste still has an airy floral quality to it. The third steeping is still tasty, but very rounded off.
In order to compare, I used the same methods as with Auras. The tea's fragrance is much stronger than Aura's. It smells a bit less sweet while putting off a sharp floral montage, as well as a heavy earthiness. The taste is very earthy. I would call it a sweet, floral earthiness because it is predominantly earthy. The flavor is not that pleasant. The 2nd steeping smells less earthy and more sweet, with deeper floral notes. The taste, however, has become predominantly floral, with a heavy backing of sweetness. The 3rd steeping is a bit "off." Tasting seperate floral, earthy, and sweet flavors.
Retrospect The Pouchong from Adagio was not as pleasing. It was very obvious that this earthiness was no good and that the pouchong was simply not well-rounded. In truth, Aura's Baozhong arrived today, and I received Adagio's baozhong a couple months ago. Although I ordered Adagio's right when they got it in, you never know how long its been in the chain from Asia to America.
Recommendations Both teas would be great as an introduction to Baozhong, or to green oolongs in general. Pouchong was my favorite tea during my first few intiation months into the world of tea. Adagio's might be better if you're looking to pick out the different qualities of a baozhong, as the flavors are not blended together, but I believe Aura's is more pleasing. In my opinion: because it's flavors are blended together, which allows it to be easily perceived as a whole, while Adagio's flavors are seperate, which may leave someone to wonder what a baozhong is really all about. Aura's tea shop can be found here. Adagios tea shop can be found here.